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Survivor Cagayan: “It’s Do or Die”

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It’s been a hell of a good season, this, the 28th edition of Survivor. I like to believe that it’s all because they went back to their roots: all-new cast, colorful group of characters – or, as it is better known, what I’ve been asking them to do ever since the inception of returning players (Coach vs. Ozzie anyone?) and faux-Survivor ploys like Fans vs. Favorites and Blood vs. Water!! You see, Survivor is best when it is a group of players who know nothing about each other, who are all on the same playing field as far as Survivor experience is concerned (zero). It’s just that simple. STFU if you think any different. I don’t want to hear it. Save your returning players for your All-Stars seasons (which should happen only once every ten seasons).

And, unless the very-likable yet Survivor-worthless Yung “Woo” Hwang walks away the winner tonight, this season will provide us with a pretty solid winner as well (Kass haters can suck it, she’s at least been entertaining and made some moves). I’ve long said that a Survivor season, when measured against the others, is only as good as its winner. So here’s hoping Tony or Spencer (who I have been predicting to win for most of this season) walks away the sole survivor.

Here’s how things look heading into tonight’s finale.

The Final Four:

Spencer Bledsoe
Tony Vlachos
Yung “Woo” Hwang
Kass McQuillen

The Jury:

Trish Hegarty
Tasha Fox
Jefra Bland
Jeremiah Wood
LJ McKanas
Morgan McLeod
Sarah Lacina

Returning from an emotional Tribal Council in which Tony had to vote out Trish, one of his strongest allies, Tony explained his actions, knowing Trish had not upset anyone on the jury and was too big a liability to take to the end. He continued to bluff that his remaining “special” Immunity Idol could be used during the Final Four, when, in fact, it was no longer eligible to be played. For the other three, it posed an immediate threat that seemed unprovable to be invalid.

Kass then explained why Tony hasn’t had to do much to get to where he was, and it was a little bit blah, blah, blah, if you ask me. The man has found three hidden Idols, helped his team win challenges, and orchestrated some of the biggest blindsides in the show’s history.

And then the loved ones showed up. Kass’ husband, Spencer’s sister, Woo’s cousin, and Tony’s friend all joined the fun, bringing with them a basket of juices, peanut butter, and other edibles. Tony got even more emotional, hoping that his wife would show up instead, but she remained back home to care for their four month old.

Kass confided in her husband, admitting that the women on the jury would take it out on her for being the last woman standing, and, even more so, for the way she has played the game.

The final four contestants and their loved ones headed off to the Immunity Challenge, where the four would compete against each other while their loved ones could only watch on, albeit anxiously. The castaways were perched on a pole high above the water, from which they would drop a bucket on a string into the water in order to fill another bucket, in turn raising a beam holding a key to within arm’s reach. Tony was the first to retrieve his key, with Spencer not far behind. With the key, the two swam to the beach to unlock pieces of a puzzle (yeah, I said puzzle, so you know Tony would blow his already shrinking lead). Woo reached his key next, while Kass remained far, far behind. By the time Woo reached the puzzle, Spencer had already surpassed Tony for the lead, and by the time Kass reached the puzzle, Tony and Spencer were more than halfway through the challenging phase. Yet, slowly but surely, Kass began to catch the boys, and before you knew it, had taken the challenge in one of the biggest miracle comebacks the show has ever seen.

Back at their home beach, Kass began gloating to the camera about getting rid of Spencer and taking two original Brawn members to the final three, her plan “all along.” Spencer pulled Tony aside as soon as he could to have a one-on-one, divulging the fact that it was going to be a final two, not three, based on the verbiage Jeff Probst used after Kass won the challenge. Meanwhile, Kass assured Woo that the two of them would vote together to remove Spencer. Would there be a tie-breaker at the first Tribal Council of the night (with a fire-making challenge as the tie-break)?

At Tribal, Spencer vowed in front of the jury that he would take Tony to the final two with him if Tony were to vote with him tonight, and that if he didn’t take Tony, for the jury to not vote for him. He continued to argue that neither Kass, nor Woo, would take him to the finals, thus requiring Tony to win the final Immunity Challenge, something he hasn’t done yet this season. Kass, with her biggest foot in her mouth, confirmed that she would have a better shot at beating Woo, leaving Tony uncertain of his place in the game. However, I have to believe that Tony felt that Spencer would remain his biggest threat to win, both in the final challenge as well as in front of the jury, and subsequently, the trio voted out Spencer.

The game had come down to Kass – who has more or less pissed off everyone on the jury, Woo – who has more or less pissed off no one while doing absolutely nothing the entire season, and Tony – the man pulling the strings for just about the entire show, who has been a polarizing figure for the jury, being both popular and annoying at once. At this point, I was praying to the heavens for a Tony win, because, well, you know, villains rule!

Back at camp, while Tony was off gathering food, Kass and Woo confirmed their deal to take each other to the finals if Tony were to lose the last Immunity Challenge, admitting that neither had a shot in hell against him. Why Tony would leave them alone for a half-second I have no idea, but it was enough to leave him in a spot where he had to win.

The final Immunity Challenge was an elaborate labyrinth-style maze in which the three would need to recover four medallions to guarantee themselves a spot in the finals, and with it, the decision of who they would face off against in front of the jury. Woo was the first to reach his fourth and final medallion, with Tony right on his tail. The two raced back to the center, where they would then open a chest and construct a few cogs to create a – yeah, you guessed it – another puzzle. Kass joined the two shortly after, and began getting to work to catch up to Woo, who was pretty far along, and Tony, who was not too far behind Woo.

For all his efforts this season, Tony was never able to master the art of the puzzle, and it was something that cost him dearly in the end, as he fell out of the challenge and watched as Woo contributed for the first time this season, winning the final, and most important Immunity Idol just a second before Kass was able to complete it.

It was time for the last scramble to begin, with both Tony and Kass fighting over Woo for the right to join him in the finals. Would Woo take what seemed like the easy way out, and take Kass to the end? Or would he take Tony, his main alliance this season, instead? Tony grabbed Woo aside to talk politics, reminding him that by taking Tony to the end he would have played honorably and to his word, and that taking Kass would upset the jury since it would be outside of the character he has presented all season long.

Kass then had her shot, reminding Woo that his and Tony’s plan all along was to take Kass because they would easily beat her. She advised him that Tony would tell the jury Woo only made it there because of him, and that he didn’t deserve to win. And, as Kass pointed out, the one player in the game who has not made a single important decision this season had full control of the way it would play out in the end.

At the final Tribal Council, Jeff tried to get the conversation going about the reasons why Woo would vote the way he would, but Woo just wanted to get right to the vote. To my surprise – though I don’t know why I would expect Woo to do the right thing for his game over the right thing for his “honor” (wtf is that, btw??) – Woo decided to keep Tony in the game and vote Kass as the final member of the jury. It was a decision that could potentially cost him a million dollars, but hey, at least he has his integrity and shit, right? LOLZ.

Now it would all come down to the one element of this nearly perfect game that always threatens to destroy it: the bitter jury. Would the nine outcasts hold a grudge against Tony, who single-handedly had a part in just about all of them being out of the game? Or would they want their season to be remembered as one of the greatest ever? The choice was just that simple.

While Tony and Woo celebrated their achievement, Tony found yet another clue to something. This time, rather than an Immunity Idol, the clue led Tony to a mirror and a scale, where the two weighed in and got a first look at themselves after 39 days away from home.

The duo made their way to the final event of Survivor: Cagayan, where the power would now shift to the jury. Tony had the first word, letting the jury know his decisions were nothing personal, that it was just a strategy in order to get him where he was now. Woo next pleaded his case that he stuck to the five codes of Tae Kwon Do, dedicating his game to his mother who had suffered a heart attack in the recent past.

The jury next presented their overly emotional, recurring bitter questions to the finalists, with most showing their angst for Tony, and their indifference towards Woo. One by one, Tony tried to answer their questions as honestly as he could, while Woo tried to convince the jury that he had been playing ethically. Spencer pulled the move I always swore I would pull if in his place, and begged the jury to not be bitter and to vote for Tony, who played a vastly superior game to Woo.

The nine members of the jury began to vote for who they felt should stand as the sole survivor…

And the winner, of Survivor: Cagayan is:

tony

Tony Vlachos (8 votes to 1)!!!!!

Regardless if you agree with the winner or not (as I clearly do!!), you have to agree that this is one of the finest seasons in Survivor history, one that produced at least three or four players I believe we will see again one day.

Let’s just hope Survivor continues to stick with what works best: an all-new cast of first time players as often as possible.

The tribe has spoken.

My Top Five Power Rankings for Survivor: Cagayan this season:

Week Twelve:

  1. Spencer Bledsoe
  2. Tony Vlachos
  3. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  4. Kass McQuillen

Week Eleven:

  1. Spencer Bledsoe
  2. Tony Vlachos
  3. Kass McQuillen
  4. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  5. Trish Hegarty

Week Ten:

  1. Spencer Bledsoe
  2. Tony Vlachos
  3. Tasha Fox
  4. Kass McQuillen
  5. Trish Hegarty

Week Nine:

  1. Spencer Bledsoe
  2. Tony Vlachos
  3. Trish Hegarty
  4. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  5. Tasha Fox

Week Eight:

  1. Spencer Bledsoe
  2. Tony Vlachos
  3. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  4. Trish Hegarty
  5. Tasha Fox

Week Seven:

  1. Spencer Bledsoe
  2. Tony Vlachos
  3. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  4. LJ McKanas
  5. Trish Hegarty

Week Six:

  1. Spencer Bledsoe
  2. Kass McQuillen
  3. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  4. LJ McKanas
  5. Tasha Fox

Week Five:

  1. Kass McQuillen
  2. Spencer Bledsoe
  3. Tasha Fox
  4. Sarah Lucina
  5. Yung “Woo” Hwang

Week Four:

  1. Spencer Bledsoe
  2. Kass McQuillen
  3. Tasha Fox
  4. Sarah Lacina
  5. Alexis Maxwell

Week Three:

  1. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  2. Sarah Lacina
  3. Alexis Maxwell
  4. Jeremiah Wood
  5. Tasha Fox

Week Two:

  1. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  2. Sarah Lacina
  3. Alexis Maxwell
  4. Jeremiah Wood
  5. Tasha Fox

Week One:

  1. Yung “Woo” Hwang
  2. Jeremiah Wood
  3. Tasha Fox
  4. Sarah Lacina
  5. Cliff Robinson

What do you think?

AC Fan

Written by Mark Johnson

Lover of all things film and Oscar. Fantasy sports’ equivalent of George Steinbrenner. Your very own Han Solo, making friends all over the movie-loving galaxy in spite of himself. When he’s not ranking just about everything or dominating boardgames, Mark is breaking down the Oscar race 24/7 with Rain Man-like stats and knowledge. In his downtime, you can find him commiserating with other Northeast Ohio sports fans because a hero isn’t complete without a little heartbreak. If Game of Thrones, Lost, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Survivor are your style, then congratulations, you have something in common with this inglourious basterd.

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